Paraplegic Therapy & Exomoon | SciByte 126

Paraplegic Therapy & Exomoon | SciByte 126

We take a look at a new treatment for paralysis, spying a possible exomoon, troubles with the Space Station, Viewer Feedback, the Large Hadron Collider, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Breakthrough Paraplegic Therapy

  • The belief that no recovery is possible and complete paralysis is permanent has been challenged now that four young men who have been paralyzed for years are now able to move their legs, as a result of epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord
  • Epidural Electrical Stimulation
  • In epidural stimulation, an electrical current is applied at varying frequencies and intensities to specific locations on the lumbosacral spinal cord
  • The stimulator delivers a continuous electrical current to the participants\’ lower spinal cords, mimicking signals the brain normally transmits to initiate movement in the dense neural bundles that largely control the movement of the hips, knees, ankles and toes
  • With the participants, once the signal was triggered, the spinal cord reengaged its neural network to control and direct muscle movements.
  • In an initial study, published in May 2011 scientists evaluated the effects of epidural stimulation in the first participant who recovered a number of motor functions as a result of the intervention
  • The New Study
  • The four paralyzed participants ranged in neurological level, two of them had absolutely no sensation or cognition below the site of their injury with no chance of recovery and all were at least two years post-injury at the time of the intervention
  • What is revolutionary is that the second, third and fourth participants were able to execute voluntary movements immediately following the implantation and activation of the stimulator.
  • Over the course of the study, the researchers noted that the participants were able to activate movements with less stimulation, demonstrating the ability of the spinal network to learn and improve nerve functions
  • Results
  • The study surprised the scientists, who believed at least some of the sensory pathway must be intact for epidural stimulation to be successful.
  • The participants\’ results and recovery time were unexpected, which led researchers to speculate that some pathways may be intact post-injury and therefore able to facilitate voluntary movements.
  • All four men were able to bear weight independently, as reported by the team
  • Beyond regaining voluntary movement, the research participants have displayed a myriad of improvements in their overall health
  • Increases in muscle mass and regulation of their blood pressure, as well as reduced fatigue and dramatic improvements to their sense of well-being.
  • This is groundbreaking for the entire field and offers a new outlook that the spinal cord, even after a severe injury, has great potential for functional recovery.
  • Widespread Use
  • When they first learned that the first patient in 2011 had regained voluntary control as a result of the therapy, scientists remained cautiously optimistic
  • Now that spinal stimulation has been successful in four out of four patients, there is evidence to suggest it could work on more individuals who previously had little realistic hope of any meaningful recovery from spinal cord injury
  • The implications of this study for the entire field are quite profound, and we can now envision a day when epidural stimulation might be part of a cocktail of therapies used to treat paralysis
  • Since this effect was observed this in four out of four people it suggests that this is actually a common phenomenon in those diagnosed with complete paralysis
  • The Future
  • The study offers hope that clinical therapies can be developed to advance treatment for the nearly 6 million Americans living with paralysis, including nearly 1.3 million with spinal cord injuries.
  • This study changes how we see motor complete spinal cord injury as it indicates that we don\’t have to necessarily rely on regrowth of nerves in order to regain function
  • The scientists are optimistic that the therapy intervention will continue to result in improved motor functions
  • Based on observations from the research, there is strong evidence that with continued advancements of the epidural stimulator, individuals with complete spinal cord injuries will be able to bear weight independently, maintain balance and work towards stepping
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Paraplegics Get Leg Function Back With Electrical Stimulation | News All Time News All Time
  • YouTube | Kent Stephenson on his recovery | ReeveFoundation
  • YouTube | Rob Summers on his recovery | ReeveFoundation
  • YouTube | Dustin Shillcox on his recovery ReeveFoundation
  • YouTube | Drew Meas on his recovery | ReeveFoundation
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
  • Breakthrough therapy allows four paraplegic men to voluntarily move their legs |
  • Reawakening Limbs After Years of Paralysis |
  • \’Milestone\’ Therapy Produces Leg Movement in Paraplegics |



  • NASA-funded researchers have spotted the first signs of an \”exomoon,\” and though they say it\’s impossible to confirm its presence
  • Discovery
  • The discovery was made by watching a chance encounter of objects in our galaxy, which can be witnessed only once so they won\’t have a chance to observe the exomoon candidate again
  • Scientists expect we can expect more unexpected finds like this.
  • It was discovered with an international study using a telescope technique, called gravitational microlensing, takes advantage of chance alignments between stars
  • When a foreground star passes between us and a more distant star, the closer star can act like a magnifying glass to focus and brighten the light of the more distant one
  • These brightening events usually last about a month
  • If the foreground star, or what astronomers refer to as the lens, has a planet circling around it, the planet will act as a second lens to brighten or dim the light even more
  • Free Floating Planets
  • Microlensing surveys have discovered dozens of exoplanets so far, in orbit around stars and free-floating
  • A previous NASA-funded study, also led by the MOA team, was the first to find strong evidence for planets the size of Jupiter roaming alone in space, presumably after they were kicked out of forming planetary systems
  • The new exomoon candidate, if real, would orbit one such free-floating planet.
  • The Object
  • By carefully scrutinizing these brightening events, astronomers can figure out the mass of the foreground star relative to its planet.
  • In the new study, the nature of the foreground, lensing object is not clear. The ratio of the larger body to its smaller companion is 2,000 to 1.
  • That means the pair could be either a small, faint star circled by a planet about 18 times the mass of Earth—or a planet more massive than Jupiter coupled with a moon weighing less than Earth
  • One possibility is for the lensing system to be a planet and its moon
  • A lower-mass pair closer to Earth will produce the same kind of brightening event as a more massive pair located farther away
  • Once a brightening event is over, it\’s very difficult to take additional measurements of the lensing system and determine the distance
    The true identity of the exomoon candidate and its companion, a system dubbed MOA-2011-BLG-262, will remain unknown
  • In The Future
  • Astronomers have no way of telling which of these two scenarios is correct, the answer to the mystery lies in learning the distance to the circling duo
  • In the future, it may be possible to obtain these distance measurements during lensing events
  • NASA\’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes, both of which revolve around the sun in Earth-trailing orbits, are far enough away from Earth to be great tools for the parallax-distance technique.
  • The basic principle of parallax can be explained by holding your finger out, closing one eye after the other, and watching your finger jump back and forth
  • A distant star, when viewed from two telescopes spaced really far apart, will also appear to move
  • When combined with a lensing event, the parallax effect alters how a telescope will view the resulting magnification of starlight
  • Though the technique works best using one telescope on Earth and one in space, such as Spitzer or Kepler, two ground-based telescopes on different sides of our planet can also be used
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | MOA-2009-BLG-319b – Gravitational microlensing – iPad Exoplanet App | Hanno Rein
  • YouTube | Dark Jupiter Detection | TelescopeFeed
  • YouTube | Gravitational Microlensing | Kowch737
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Faraway moon or faint star? Possible exomoon found |


International Space Station (ISS) Glitch

  • April 11
  • It was confirmed Friday night (April 11) that a backup computer on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) called a Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM) was not responding to commands
  • The primary computer continued to work so the crew was safe and there were no “immediate” change to space station operations,
  • The failure was uncovered Friday “during a routine health check” of a box called EXT-2, which backs up a primary component that sits outside on the S0 truss (near the station’s center)
  • It was decided that tf the computer did need to be replaced, crew members of Expedition 39 would need to do at least one spacewalk
  • NASA is allowing contingency spacewalks in American spacesuits to go forward as the agency addresses problems raised in a report about a life-threatening spacesuit leak in July
  • Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM)
  • This primary MDM not only controls a robotics mobile transporter, but also radiators and a joint to move the station’s solar arrays, among other things.
  • NASA needs to reposition the arrays when a vehicle approaches because plumes from the thrusters can put extra “loads” or electrical power on the system.
  • Luckily, the angle of the sun is such these days that the array can sit in the same spot for a while, at least two to three weeks
  • NASA configured the station so that even if the primary computer fails, the array will automatically position correctly
  • NASA also will move a mobile transporter on station today so that the station’s robotic arm is ready to grasp the Dragon when it arrives, meaning that even if the primary computer fails the transporter will be in the right spot
  • April 12
  • NASA began preparing a contingency spacewalk to deal with a broken backup computer component
  • April 13
  • NASA doesn’t want to go ahead with a space walk until spare spacesuit parts arrive, in the aftermath of a life-threatening suit leak that took place last summer.
  • Those parts are on board the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft
  • The Dragon is carrying a new spacesuit, components to fix an existing spacesuit, critical research experiments and food for the six crew members of Expedition 39.
  • If Dragon is delayed again, the next launch opportunity is April 18 and the spacewalk would be pushed back
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | NASA and the International Space Station Help Show It\’s a Small World After all | NASA
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Backup Computer Glitches On Space Station But Crew Safe, NASA Says |
  • Failed Space Station Computer Spurs Contingency Spacewalk Plans |
  • Contingency Spacewalk Planned Next Week, But Dragon Must Arrive At Space Station First |


Lunar Eclipses Tetrad

  • For people in the United States, a lunar eclipses tetrad is about to begin, when a series of 4 consecutive total eclipses occurring at approximately six month intervals
  • Check This Out | Lunar Eclipse Tetrad
  • Brian McCoskey, Nogal
  • Types of Lunar Eclipse
  • On average, lunar eclipses occur about twice a year, but not all of them are total. There are three types
  • Penumbral eclipse | The Moon passes through the pale outskirts of Earth’s shadow. It’s so subtle, sky watchers often don’t notice an eclipse is underway
  • Partial eclipse | Is more dramatic that a penumbral as the Moon dips into the core of Earth’s shadow, but not all the way, so only a fraction of Moon is darkened.
  • Total eclipse | The entire Moon is shadowed, is best of all. The face of the Moon turns sunset-red for up to an hour or more as the eclipse slowly unfolds.
  • Lunar Eclipse Tetrad
  • The total eclipse of April 15, 2014, will be followed by another on Oct. 8, 2014, and another on April 4, 2015, and another on Sept. 28 2015.
  • Usually, lunar eclipses come in no particular order
  • Occasionally, though, the sequence is more orderly. When four consecutive lunar eclipses are all total, the series is called a tetrad.
  • During the 21st century, there are 9 sets of tetrads so it is a frequent occurrence in the current pattern of lunar eclipses, although during the three hundred year interval from 1600 to 1900, for instance, there were no tetrads at all
  • The most unique thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that all of them are visible for all or parts of the USA
  • Why red?
  • Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it when the eclipse is underway
  • As you scan your eye around Earth\’s circumference, you\’re seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once
  • This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth\’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | NASA | Understanding Lunar Eclipses | NASA Goddard
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • NASA Eclipse Web Site
  • A Tetrad of Lunar Eclipses – NASA Science |

— Updates —

Large Hadron Collider – Beginning of Startup

  • Scientists working at CERN\’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) facility has reported that the process of restarting the massive experimental mechanism has begun, though it won\’t finish until sometime next year
  • Last Time on SciByte …
  • The Shutdown | SciByte 82 | Meteorites & Asteroids | February 19, 2013
  • The Upgrade
  • The facility is in the process of an upgrade, which has been in the planning stages for several years and will include upgrades to several pieces and parts of the facility that support the LHC as well as the main accelerator itself
  • The team recognized that the facility had begun to suffer from diminishing returns and that many parts could be improved due to the development of new technology and improvements on old ways of doing things.
  • The collider will have to be restarted in pieces to ensure that each is operating properly before the next can be brought online
  • The team has successfully restarted the part they call the source, the piece of equipment responsible for stripping electrons off of hydrogen atoms for use in producing protons.
  • What\’s Next?
  • Team members have made much of the complete upgrade to the control system that integrates all of the systems and which of course will be central to a successful reboot.
  • The team plans to fire up Linac2, an accelerator whose job it is to give protons their initial push
  • After that a booster will be started that will be used to push the protons even faster, for the LHC to be used in its proper context, it must receive protons that are already moving exceedingly fast.
  • In addition to swapping out parts for new and improved technology, technicians will also be replacing worn cables or other minor but necessary components
  • If all goes well, the LHC should be ready and back in business sometime early 2015.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | CERN in 3 minutes CERN
  • Image |
  • Social Media
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • CERN Website
  • Large Hadron Collider team announces beginning of restart |



Looking back

  • April 22, 1575 : 439 years ago : Surgery Book : The printing of Ambroise Paré\’s book Oeuvres Complètes (Complete Works) was finished, but its publication was opposed by establishment physicians. His previous texts on surgery had popularized a new way to treat gunshot wounds without cauterisation, reintroduced the ligature in amputation, and improved midwifery techniques. These many writings were gathered together in this one new volume, which spread his teachings throughout the world. It remained in print for a century and ran to thirteen editions. He wrote in French instead of Latin with practical, common sense so that many barber-surgeons, who (like Paré) were unable to interpret Latin, had access to medical knowledge otherwise unavailable from Latin texts
  • Ambroise Paré\’s was a French physician, one of the greatest surgeons of the European Renaissance, known as the \”father of modern surgery\” for his many innovations in operative methods. While an army surgeon, he introduced the method of treating wounds by ligature of arteries instead of cauterisation with red-hot irons or boiling oil. Paré also invented prostheses. \”Le Petit Lorrain\” was a hand, operated by springs and catches, for a French Army Captain, which he then used in battle. Paré also invented a kneeling peg leg and foot prosthesis. It had an adjustable harness, knee lock control, and other engineering features used today. He was surgeon to Henry II and his three successors. He wrote books on anatomy, surgery, plague, obstetrics, and deformities

Looking up this week

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